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Train Derailment Causes Hazardous Chemical Leak

February 21, 1991

WOOLDRIDGE, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities evacuated this tiny village Wednesday after a toxic chemical used in rat poison began rising in a bright white cloud from the wreck of a derailed freight train.

Hazardous waste crews worked to plug a hole in a toppled car containing yellow phosphorous, a highly flammable chemical that is toxic if inhaled or ingested.

No injuries were reported.

Officials worried that a shift in wind could carry fumes to nearby Overton, a village of about 10 people. Wooldridge has less than 100 residents.

Thirty cars of a 119-car Union Pacific train derailed in the remote central Missouri area about 10 miles southwest of Columbia.

The chemical was being transported from North Platte, Neb., to Little Rock, Ark, said John Bromley, a Union Pacific spokesman.

Scott Holste of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources said crews used foam to extinguish a fire in the leaking car but didn’t end the hazard.

″Until that hole is plugged up, we do have a dangerous situation. ... There is a danger of another fire, and-or an explosion,″ Holste said.

Cooper County Sheriff Charles Smith said the evacuated families would not be permitted to return to their homes until Thursday morning.

Norma W. Kosfeld, a receptionist at a nearby motel, said Union Pacific had reserved 25 rooms for the night and five evacuated families had registered by 6 p.m. Union Pacific said it will pay the motel tab.

Cooper County firefighter Bill Hilden said the cars hold up to 90 tons each and believed the leaking car had been full.

Bromley said yellow phosphorous is solid, somewhat like a wax, and is packed under water in the cars. It caught fire and fumes began leaking from it when the train derailed.

The cause of the derailment was under investigation.

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